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This was originally a post to the newsgroup rec.pets.herp by Rich Zuchowski, the owner of Serpenco, which specializes in many morphs of Corn Snakes and Leopard Geckos.  The first part is a portion of the question asked, so readers can take the information in context.

>   So, breeders, let me know, what does it take to get you to decide whether or not you participate in a show...what are the more desirable characteristics?  Dates, table fees, locations and so on...please, we really would like to set this up, maybe even this year...any advice is always welcome!

Rich's Reply:

I guess it depends on what sort of show you intend to do.  A flea-market/swap style meet, or something that has a little bit more class to it.

I'm just below Tallahassee, FL, so something like this might be of interest to me, but like anything else, it depends.

Some things you will need to consider:

(1) Is the show date going to conflict with another BIG show somewhere else?  If you are going to try to draw well known vendors, they will probably be booked nearly a year in advance.

(2) If you're doing a flea market/swap meet, you can probably do one pretty quickly and get a moderate turnout, no matter what.  If it's going to be a big affair, you are probably too late for this year since it will take more planning and commitment than you can squeeze into the time remaining for this season.  Advertising in major publications usually has a three month pipeline and most people probably already have plans in mind for this year. 

(3) If it looks like it's going to be a big affair, attendees
(non-vendor types) will plan their vacations around it.  If it's in Panama City during the summer months, that could work out well.  Hoping that no hurricanes pop up, of course.  Try to pick a place for the show that has some alternatives for the significant other that might not be all that interested in the herps.

(4)  Generally, we greatly prefer a two day show.  This is for a couple of reasons.  Generally it's a lot of trouble getting ready for, setting up, and then breaking down for a show.  Trying to compact that all in a single day is a real pain.  The Saturday nights of a two day show are
about the only time my wife and I get to relax during the months between March and October.  So if your show is a one day show and only 3 hours away and another competing show is 8 hours away and a two day affair, we will go to the two day show.  Vendors very often will make more at a two day show than a one day show.  And quite frankly, if they don't make anything on the first day of the show, they might as well pack it up and go home anyway rather than be there for the following day.

(5)  Are you going to make it a reptile only show or an 'exotic animal show?  Exotic animal shows will bring in more people, which is good for the promoter, but it's damn aggravating for most of the vendors.  Let's face it, no one coming to the show with the intention of buying a bird or going to the petting zoo in the back is suddenly going to get smitten with a desire to buy the reptiles on the other tables.  It's about as likely as me suddenly whipping out my wallet to buy a cockatiel across the aisle from me.  Ain't going to happen.  So what the reptile breeders wind up being is cheap thrills for the mass of gawkers who come through the door and point at the snakes in deli cups saying "Yuch!! How many of them thar snakes is poisonous?"

(6) What's the price of admission going to be?  You need to find the price point that is low enough that most people won't squawk too loudly but high enough to keep only people that are planning to buy coming into the door rather than those people just bored and looking for something to kill the time.  I know you can sometimes get a first time buyer from these gawkers, but it's more the exception than the rule.  I know this sounds cold, but unless the vendors are selling animals and making some money at the show, they certainly have better things they could be doing with their time.

(7) Baby strollers?  Again, I know this sounds cold, but anyone whom has been to a large show and gotten their ankles busted on a baby stroller knows what I mean when I say they should stay outside.  I think Wayne Hill's policy is that they are banned from his show and with good reason.  I might have sold animals to someone pushing a baby stroller but if I did it was a rare enough event that I certainly don't remember it.

(8) Captive hatched only or anything goes?  I'd rather have healthy wildcaughts on the table next to me than sick captive hatched.  It would be well worth while to have a health policy in effect and a vet at the show to inspect and eject any animals that don't make the grade.  I've been to more than one show where I watched people sell an animal that I just knew wasn't going to live through the trip home to some enthusiastic kid that didn't have a clue what he was buying.  A show's lifeblood will be repeat business.  Yeah that guy made his one sale, but is that kid coming back for the next show?

(9)  ADVERTISE HEAVILY!! And not just in the national herp magazines. The local population needs to know about it and far enough in advance that they can make plans to be there.  We did a couple of shows out in Jacksonville, FL where the promoter's idea of advertising was to hang a banner on the fence along the road to the motel where the show was being held.  He did that on the morning of the show.  That show died a well deserved death very quickly.

(10)  Advertise the show as a SHOW & SALE.  I have honestly been to shows and had people standing in front of my tables lamenting the fact that they had no idea they could buy animals at the show.  They didn't even think to bring any money with them.  To some people a 'show' is like a car show, where you go and look at those things but you certainly don't expect you'll be bringing one home with you.

(11)  Make a commitment to the show if you're really going to do it. There was another guy who had plans on doing 4 shows in this area a couple of years ago.  Even had one planned here in Tallahassee.  Problem was, we called all of the places he was supposed to be holding the shows and not one of them had been reserved for the dates of the shows.  Not one.  So, of course, that idea died on the vine because no one was going to send this unknown their money as a commitment for the show when he wasn't making a commitment himself.

(12)  Talk to other promoters about how they do their shows.  Attend a few and get a feel for what is behind it. A big affair is a major commitment on your time, money, and sanity.  Don't jump into it lightly, but if you do decide to jump in, make sure you have all of your ducks in a line and then jump in with both feet.  If you do a show half-assed, it will be a half-assed show, and that first impression will last a long time.  News of the show will have spread to everyone before you're even done cleaning up afterwards.

(13)  Try to get some mouse suppliers and cricket suppliers to attend as vendors at the show.  You would be surprised how many reptile shows have faltered simply because prospective buyers were afraid they wouldn't be able to find food for their new purchases.

Whew!!  This sure got me going!  I know I missed some things, but this will give you plenty of food for thought.

Rich Zuchowski

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